Author Archive for Cory Miller

Two Things I’ve Learned Being an Entrepreneur and Parent

I was five years into starting and running iThemes when I added a new title to my resume: Dad.

Being an entrepreneur and a father is a very interesting combination. It brought up new issues, challenges and questions for me. In fact, it was one of the questions I went to my business group about before our first child was born, as many of them were already fathers and entrepreneurs.

My friend Ben Welch-bolen (and new father) has started a great new site called Entrepreneur Parents to share advice and experiences for those of us who are both. He asked me to chime in and I gave two answers, which you can also read here, but I wanted to share my thoughts to the questions here as well, so here goes:

With kid(s) and a business, what do you do to maintain your relationship with your spouse?

This has been our biggest struggle — simply making time for each other.

We quickly realized, no matter the cost, we had to do weekly dates. We found early on that night time dates (especially with infants) did not work well for us. We’d end up falling asleep on the date.

So now we do Day Dates, typically on Saturdays.

We can tell the difference when we skip a Day Date or simply don’t get one for a week or two. And continue to realize that it’s an investment in US, and we know the better we are together, the better we are for our children.

Plus, my mentor warned me …. we spend 18+ years raising kids and all the time-consuming activities and focus that includes … then one day they are gone, and we’re left with an empty house and a stranger.

We heeded that warning.

By the way, one huge benefit of having a physical office is we use it to get sushi and wine for lunch, watch movies, and talk on a couch while our kids are under the care of someone else at home. In the past, we would bounce around to different restaurants or places and spent more time, energy and money wandering like nomads than sitting and talking and enjoying quality time with each other. We still go out, but we know we have another “home base” to go to, something many others don’t have the benefit of.

What is the #1 piece of advice you would give an entrepreneur who is about to be a parent on how to balance those two worlds?

When I became a father, my business (my first baby) was in a good place. I tell people my busiess is now in kindergarten and under “adult supervision.” So the timing was really good to be able to focus less time and energy on my business than I did in the startup years and to shift that focus more to my children and family for a nice balance.

I have more time and energy constraints now as an entrepreneur and father, which I think is actually a very good thing. I have obsessive and workaholic tendencies and now I simply can’t (or won’t) do the things I did in the beginning, which gives me such a better perspective on life.

I’ve been able to focus on empowering and mentoring others in the business to do some of the things I frankly shouldn’t have been doing. I prioritize my time and energy so much better now.

The biggest thing I struggle with now is taking off my CEO hat when I get in the door at night and putting on the “Daddy” hat. It’s been a frustrating struggle, honestly. I’ve spent so much of the last 9 years being the leader, the one people look to, working with a team of adults and professionals, being able to give direction and know it’ll be done, that I have to reset my mindset when I’m home. I’m so much more of a caregiver, a teacher, a listener at home, but it’s also helped with business.

Patience is truly a virtue. And one I’m continually working on.

***

Go share your thoughts over at Entrepreneur Parents too! 

 

Disclaimer: Why I Share My Mental Health Struggles Publicly

As I’ve been sharing openly about mental health and some of my own struggles publicly over the last couple of years, I wanted to make sure I shared the context and purpose for doing so.

When I share my mental health struggles as I have here, it isn’t for public therapy … that’s when I go to my counselor and support network … privately … with trusted people, in a safe and confidential environment.

That’s not to say I haven’t on occasion fallen for doing so on Facebook or Twitter. I have. And almost always regretted it.

Mainly because that’s not therapy, that’s generating sympathy. And typically a very superficial one at that, because whatever benefits I think I might get from it don’t last.

It’s coating the surface temporarily with a warm glaze while not working on the real problems inside, which I believe should not be done in a public manner.

It’s a big and important difference to make in the conversation about mental health.

And I don’t want to give any illusion that that’s what I’m doing or expecting others to do too by sharing so openly publicly.

In fact, most of the things I share publicly happened 6+ years ago. I’ve talked through them, sought help for them, healed from them, in the past, privately.

Again, my experiences in growth and healing tell me that that happens with a licensed professional counselor, maintaining a private journal where I get to vomit out my emotions, feelings and frustrations in order to release them and understand them better, and sharing my struggles with a private, trusted, safe, confidential support network who have my best at heart, my key people are listed here.

However, when I do share publicly, my purpose and goals are simple:

To use my life and past struggles to say:
You’re not alone. Everybody hurts.

So that … others are empowered to seek and get help and encouragement they need.

And, finally, to erase and eradicate the stigma of mental health on this planet.

And you know what, I haven’t shared ALL of my struggles, I’ve shared SOME of my struggles. Yes, there’s always more to my Iceberg! But I share the ones I think would make the biggest impact and difference for others (depression and divorce being the most resonating ones so far).

It’s become increasingly clear that as I do share more, I share them through these filters and purposes. Otherwise, I’m just trying to garner that instant, mostly synthetic, ‘feel better now’ feeling.

BUT … when others talk openly for those reasons … it makes me SO proud and inspired. It shows change is happening!

Last night, I got to listen to the WP Elevation Facebook Live episode where host Troy Dean was talking with my friends Carrie Dills and Matt Medeiros about this vital subject of mental health. It was a fantastic episode that I highly recommend.

Listening to the show last night, prompted me to write this … it was an amazing example of what I’m seeking to achieve here and I’m so thrilled others are doing so too.

And if you’re struggling and hurting … make a call. Reach out to your support network. And seek and receive the help and encouragement you need today. Please.

Three New Books I’m Desperately Trying To Eat At Once

Here are three books I can’t wait to read ALL at once and wanted to share. I’ll likely have some notes, tweets and reviews later as they all are packed with great information:

You can see my all-time reading list here for books I’ve read and love.

Bros, It’s Time To Hang Out More Regularly

Last weekend, I went on a quick but epic roadtrip with my youngest brother, Matt. On short notice I needed (and let’s be honest, wanted) someone to go with me to our New Mexico cabin (about a 9-hour drive each way) starting on Friday night and getting back on Sunday night.

Matt and I are seven years apart in age. He’s a police officer and I type for a living. We didn’t grow up in the same home, but we’ve always had a brother bond that even if we didn’t see each other for months, we would start where we left off.

So for 18+ hours on the road and all the in-between time when we weren’t sleeping (barely), there wasn’t 5 minutes of quiet between us. We talked about everything from children, marriage to politics and career … and of course our hopes and dreams and thoughts about the future. We toasted and drank some excellent Balvenie. We grilled veggies and steaks. And yes, there were plenty of pranks, shenanigans and laughs.

After the trip, although we were both exhausted I could not wipe the grin from my face if I wanted to.

And then after the trip, I read this article titled “The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.” And it got me thinking …

It’s true. At least in my life.

Yes, I have an incredible, supportive wife who is my best friend and amazing children that give me so much meaning and purpose and joy and love. Yes, I have a lot of close friends. But because of the busyness of life — career (running a business) and family (chasing two kiddos around and prioritizing my marriage), I see it’s truth.

In fact, I think you can walk the halls of many nursing homes and see this truth:

Loneliness kills.

Here’s a couple of quotes that stuck out to me from the article:

“Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer’s.”

“In 2015, a huge study out of Brigham Young University, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation, or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent.”

As I read further in the article, I saw more truths:

Men need an activity together to make and keep a bond.”

“That’s why Schwartz and others say the best way for men to forge and maintain friendships is through built-in regularity — something that is always on the schedule.”

The key takeaway from the article hit home with me: We, men, need a regularly scheduled activity, especially in mid-life. 

So it got me thinking about how I’ve tried to find that male bonding time …. and here are my thoughts.

My Goals for Guy Time

Just replacing on the activities with other friends, here are the most valuable values I have for those relationships that maximize those times:

  • Go deeper — the older I get the less I care about small talk. I want to get to the deeper issues of life. My best friendships are the ones where we skip the surface and talk about the iceberg of life — both the struggles and successes.
  • Be more open — my most valued friendships are the ones where I don’t have to wear a mask or a costume. I’m just me, being me. And vice versa. This is all about trust and respect. And no judgment. We all have skeletons in the closet. The most incredible experiences I’ve had is two humans being human together. Recognizing we all have emotions and feelings, hopes and dreams, whether they seem trivial to us or not. I’ve found I’m my worst critic and whenever I’ve been more human and open, I get open and human back.
  • Make lifetime memories — have fun and enjoy each other’s company. The best times are when we’re doing something fun, whether it’s white water rafting in Idaho (or New Mexico) or simply enjoying a drink while telling stories that become our legends. Life is so much about the moments you share.

Some Ways I’ve Found That Bonding

Here are a couple of ways I’ve found that CONSISTENT and ongoing time with my dude friends:

  • Monthly Mastermind Meeting — although it’s not a mastermind (and we have females in the group), for the last 5+ years, I’ve been meeting with a group of 8-9 Oklahoma City entrepreneurs (via Entrepreneurs Organization) every month for three hours. They’ve been my lifeline of sanity as well as success. It’s been so incredibly impactful on my success and sanity that I’ve also started another forum group in the past, and am in the process of seeding another one this year. I’ve found nothing like it in the world. Like-minded people, in similar stages of life, with the same values and goals, setting aside a block of time each month to work on our icebergs and share our lives with each other. The other one I’ve been a part of like this is one with five other WordPress peeps, but is mainly focused on work/career accountability.
  • Once a Year Retreat — Our Entrepreneurs Organization Forum group also does a retreat once a year for 3-4 days, typically in the summer around June. We’ve done some fun stuff together like fly fishing in Montana to flying jets in Vegas, but it’s always the times around the campfire that mean the most to me. I also look at PressNomics and CaboPress (conferences I try not to miss) as times for bonding with my business friendships. I shouldn’t even label them as ‘business,’ they are friends I’ve made through business.
  • Team Sports — I just recently returned to indoor volleyball, a sport I’ve loved since college, after the urging and push from my wife. In the past, Lindsey and I have also played softball and relished those new friendships and times. Although the team was co-ed, I enjoyed the camaraderie and bonding and looking to playing volleyball again in the summer season.

Filling in the Gaps with One-Off, Somewhat Random Opportunities

  • Roadtrips — my brother Matt and I are already planning our next roadtrip over the weekend. Watch out Moab, we’re coming for you in Jeeps! In August, we’ll be joining our dad and other brother and friends to go hunting in New Mexico. (I don’t hunt or like to hunt, but I won’t miss another trip with these awesome men.)
  • Lema/Miller Slumber Parties — my buddy Chris flew to Dallas to hangout with me for a couple of days and because we’re kids like this, we said it was our Slumber Party. We talked until way too early in the morning and had to force ourselves to go to sleep as it was so much fun. Slumber Party Party Deux is in a couple of weeks. I know, we’re geeks, but proud of it!
  • WordCamps — the Hallway Track is my favorite, especially at WordCamp US. It’s hard to get 5 feet before you’re talking and catching up with some awesome WordPress community friends. Some of my favorite memories are hanging out (and getting lost on subways) with guys like Michael Torbert way back at WordCamp Boston, or sharing one-on-one time with guys like Karim Marucchi over a good meal.
  • Portugal Pals — one way my COO and buddy Matt Danner and I stay close and in sync is through regular trips together. There’s something about flights and hotel rooms without much distractions that are always a blast. We just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime, epic trip to Portugal. #pals
  • Dad Dates — my buddy Jesse and I have children the same age AND gender. He graciously went with me to see the latest Star Wars movie recently. I also had dinner and got to see the OKC Thunder play (courtside, holy cow!) recently with my buddy Jeff. It’s awesome when you are in parallel life stages, and going through similar things.
  • Coffees and Lunches — I enjoy catching up with my buddies and making new ones (like I did recently when John reached out to me as he was traveling to OKC for a wedding).
  • Traveling — on our personal trips, Lindsey and I have a motto and mission: Make friends everywhere. And we have. I love making new friendships with those in new cultures and around the globe. It’s entirely changed the way I do traveling now. My goal isn’t just to see new places, but to meet new people. It’s so mind expanding and special. Our friend Marco and his family, on Father’s Day, took us on a full-day tour of Lisbon, Portugal. So much fun memories — made even more special when his mother gave us tiles that goes on her house (a very cool Portuguese tradition).
  • Partner Pals — some of my best memories of my business partners, Scott and Jay, have been on our trips, whether it was to visit the campus of Google and Yahoo or the White House. I want for more trips with these awesome men and role models.
  • Skype, Slack, iMessage chats, Facebook — it’s never a substitute for face to face, or elbow to elbow bonding times. But the article says men aren’t great at talking on the phone (I hate it) yet throughout the year my buddies and I seem to stay in touch via these text chats. My friend Jason is great at keeping up like this.
  • Reunions — after 20 years of not going to my high school reunion, I went a couple years ago and thoroughly enjoyed catching up with old friendships, although I have not kept in touch beyond liking their posts on Facebook.

Ideas for More Consistent Hang Out Times:

  • Once a Month In-Person Coffee or Breaking Bread — like every third Wednesday. It’s way easier for me to do lunches or daytime meetings than nighttimes with kids.
  • Once-a-Quarter Weekend Trips — very short roadtrips that get us away from the distractions of life with a focused activity — like watching a football game, or
  • Once-a-Year Retreats — as I mentioned I already do this with my Forum group … but another in a year would be super nice, like 2-3 days away.
  • Movie Night — whenever a new movie comes out, we go see it on Thursday night — if we can stay up that late!

Additional Thoughts and Caveats:

  • Spousal/significant other support is essential — My wife is my top relationship priority. Without the support of my wife, I wouldn’t do the things I already do, but thankfully she sees the value for my life, health and happiness, and I do for her retreats as well. We try to do regular checkins to communicate and see how we’re doing, one of the many reasons I’ve tried to winnow my business travel down drastically this year.
  • Too much time away — I realize with all these ideas, at some point, you can spend WAY too much time away from your family, which ain’t good. It’s all about time budgeting and again talking it through with your spouse and family. It’s interesting to note that Lindsey and I try to do these kinds of spousal retreats and getaways as often as possible. She comes first, always and forever.
  • Getting overscheduled — I try to have as few regularly scheduled meetings in my professional life as I can (let alone personal), and if I were to add too many things above, I’d get way too booked up, which would mean less time for family and family travel.
  • Prioritizing relationships — I realize there’s a limit to how many close relationships one person can build. Proximity is often the prioritizing factor just because it’s easier. Lema talks about how he approaches that here.
  • Gal Pals are just as awesome — over the years I’ve had so many special relationships with some awesome, wickedly smart, incredibly supportive ladies. I’ve found just as much joy with my gal pals and don’t want to leave them out in any way. In fact, looking over my Instagram feed for pics showed me how much time I have spent with these awesome awesome women.

OK, what are your ideas?

 

Need Quality WordPress Hosting? Check Out Liquid Web

The First-Things-First Disclosures: I fully believe in everything I’m saying here, or else I wouldn’t share it. My company, iThemes, is a partner of theirs (through our iThemes Sync Pro product). My wife, Lindsey Miller, is Liquid Web’s new partner manager, and I’m very good friends with Chris Lema, VP of Product, and A.J. Morris, Product Manager. Also, there is an affiliate link here. 

Simply put: The state of WordPress hosting mostly sucks. Since 2008, when I started iThemes, WordPress hosting has gotten worse and worse, and only recently have I seen many of the companies I once recommended start to get better.

If you’re looking for quality WordPress hosting … meaning you care about your site, and use it to build your business or organization … I believe Liquid Web has one of the most compelling offers around for a number of reasons … here are mine:

  • They’ve defined what hosting support should be — They don’t just offer 24/7/365 support … if you need help and ping their 800-number or live chat, you’ll actually be talking with someone who knows what they are doing, and aren’t trying to sell you something. The last time I check, 200 of their 250+ support team are Red Hat-certified. So Heroic Support isn’t just a tagline, it’s core to who they are. As I walked through one of their offices in Lansing, Michigan last year, you could just see and feel the commitment to a client-first, support-first culture. It’s part of their identity. I think few can actually claim they do “managed” support like Liquid Web can. Their NPS score, which puts them in a VERY rare category is a result I think of their focus on customer support.
  • They own their hardware — This is significant and rare and means they can control the whole environment as they aren’t relying on someone else. I’ve seen it (well, through a window!). If they have an issue, they go fix it … themselves.
  • A WordPress hosting platform that’s only getting better and faster — led by my friend Chris Lema, their WordPress hosting platform is killing it every week with new features that benefit you and your site. So whatever you buy now will only get better.
  • iThemes Sync Pro comes with it — We’ve partnered with Liquid Web to offer every WordPress hosting customer of theirs our awesome site management tools.
  • Just plain ole good people — Beyond my wife, Chris, A.J. and others, I’ve also met most of their Executive Team, in fact, some of them have been in our home in Oklahoma City.
  • Don’t just take my word for it — You should also read what Shawn Hesketh of WP101 and WordPress developer and Lynda.com instructor Carrie Dills have said about Liquid Web’s offering. (They give much more compelling technical reasons that I didn’t share here!) See also: SEO Bootcamp’s Giveaway, Kim’s review, Tara’s review, and Joe’s review too.  And I’m confident you’ll see more and more people recommending Liquid Web soon.

Go Check out Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting here.